With live entertainment, local food competitions, free ice skating and other indoor and outdoor activities, there is plenty to do at the Lowell WinterFest to embrace the season.
The event returns to downtown Lowell, Mass., for its 17th year on Friday, Feb. 24, and Saturday, Feb. 25. While some activities require a small fee, almost everything to do at the festival is entirely free, including admission.
“The idea to have an outdoor winter festival first came about when we wanted to create an activity as part of Lowell Kids Week,” said Tobi Marx, temporary executive director of the Lowell Cultural Affairs/Special Events Office. “It was especially a great event for families to go to at the end of [Massachusetts’] February school vacation, but over the years it’s sort of evolved into the multi-generational event that it is today.”
Festivities officially begin on Friday at 5:30 p.m. and will include food trucks, ice skating, a carousel and a 30-foot inflatable Snowzilla Slide at Lucy Larcom Park.
This year’s festival will be the first year ice skating will be available at the JFK Plaza.
“In past years, we’d send people to the Tsongas Arena nearby to go ice skating, but then we thought, why don’t we keep them right here, where everything else is going on?” Marx said.
From 6 to 9 p.m., the sixth annual MicroBrew Showcase will kick off at the Lodge on the Plaza, featuring more than two dozen local brews. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 on the day of the event.
“The cabin area [at the park] is going to be all about local artisans and local food,” Marx said. “We’ve been working with local restaurants to provide food and beverages at the festival to show off all that Lowell has to offer.”
Another highlight for Friday night will be a free performance at JFK Plaza by the Joshua Tree Band, a U2 cover band, in addition to other local music groups like Western Education, who will play both Friday and Saturday.
Several events are also planned spanning throughout the day on Saturday and include an all-you-can-eat chocolate festival at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church (8 Kirk St.) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $7 and will include opportunities to win raffle prizes.
Also on Saturday is the North Bowl Soup Competition, at the Masonic Center (50 Arcand Drive) from noon to 3 p.m. Marx said the competition has become a highlight of WinterFest in recent years, showcasing homemade soups and chowders from several local restaurants and cafes. Participants pay $5 at the door and try the soups before voting on their favorite.
There will be a Family Fun Zone set up at Lowell High School (50 Father Morissette Blvd.) from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, which will include a craft area, games, a model railroad train display, drawing tables, and performances from children’s musicians Tricia Boscho & Friends.
“One of the main goals behind WinterFest is to create a fun event so that people don’t have to feel like they are cooped up inside the entire time during winter,” Marx said. “So we try to underline it as one of the coolest winter events happening in the region in February, and we want everybody to have fun.”